Betting Singles vs. Parlays

Thu, Jul 4, 2024
by CapperTek

In sports betting, one of the most crucial decisions a bettor faces is whether to place single bets or parlay bets. Understanding the nuances of each betting type can significantly impact your betting strategy and overall success. This guide will cover the advantages and disadvantages of singles and parlays, providing insights tailored to the U.S. market.

What are Single Bets?

Single bets, also known as straight bets, are the simplest form of sports betting. A bettor places a wager on the outcome of a single event. If the bettor's prediction is correct, they win the bet and receive a payout based on the odds.

Example: Betting $100 on the New York Giants to win at odds of +150. If the Giants win, the bettor receives $250 ($100 initial bet + $150 profit).

Advantages of Single Bets:

1.    Simplicity: Easy to understand and place.

2.    Lower Risk: Since the bet is on a single outcome, the risk is relatively low.

3.    Manageable Bankroll: Easier to manage and control your betting bankroll.

4.    Consistent Returns: Provides steady, if unspectacular, returns over time.

Disadvantages of Single Bets:

1.    Lower Payouts: The payout for single bets is typically lower compared to parlays.

2.    Less Excitement: Single bets may not provide the same level of thrill as parlays due to the lower potential for large payouts.

What are Parlay Bets?

Parlay bets, or accumulators, involve combining multiple bets into one. All individual bets within the parlay must win for the parlay to pay out. The odds of each bet are multiplied together, leading to significantly higher potential payouts. You can read more about parlays in this guide about sports betting.

Example: Betting $100 on a three-team parlay:

     New York Giants at +150

     Los Angeles Lakers at -200

     New York Yankees at +100

The combined odds would be: 2.50 1.50 2.00 = 7.50. A $100 bet would yield $750 if all three teams win.

Advantages of Parlay Bets:

1.    Higher Payouts: The main draw of parlays is the potential for large payouts from a small initial wager.

2.    Excitement: The cumulative nature of parlays adds an extra level of excitement as each leg of the parlay unfolds.

3.    Potential for Big Wins: Bettors can win significant amounts of money without placing large individual bets.

Disadvantages of Parlay Bets:

1.    Higher Risk: All bets in the parlay must win; if one loses, the entire parlay loses.

2.    Low Probability of Success: The more bets included in the parlay, the lower the chance of winning.

3.    Complexity: Requires careful selection and understanding of multiple bets.

Comparing Single Bets and Parlays

1.    Risk and Reward:

     Singles: Offer a lower-risk, lower-reward betting strategy. Ideal for bettors seeking consistent returns and lower volatility.

     Parlays: High-risk, high-reward. Suitable for bettors looking for big wins and willing to accept the risk of frequent losses.

2.    Bankroll Management:

     Singles: Easier to manage as each bet is independent. Losses are limited to individual bets.

     Parlays: More challenging to manage. A single loss can wipe out the entire bet, potentially leading to larger bankroll fluctuations.

3.    Betting Strategy:

     Singles: Better suited for disciplined, strategic bettors who prefer analyzing individual games.

     Parlays: Often favored by recreational bettors who enjoy the thrill and potential for large payouts.

4.    Psychological Factors:

     Singles: Less emotional investment per bet. Losses are easier to handle.

     Parlays: High excitement but can be emotionally taxing due to the all-or-nothing nature.

Here’s a table comparing the two:


Single Bets

Parlay Bets


A bet placed on the outcome of a single event.

A bet that combines multiple selections into one wager.

Risk Level

Lower risk, as it depends on a single outcome.

Higher risk, as all selections must win for the bet to pay out.

Potential Payout

Lower payout, consistent with the lower risk.

Higher potential payout due to compounded odds.


Simple to understand and place.

More complex, requiring careful selection of multiple events.

Bankroll Management

Easier to manage and control.

More challenging due to the higher risk and potential for large losses.

Frequency of Wins

Higher probability of winning each bet.

Lower probability due to the requirement that all bets win.

Emotional Investment

Less emotional investment per bet.

High excitement but can be emotionally taxing.

Suitable For

Disciplined, strategic bettors seeking consistent returns.

Recreational bettors seeking large payouts from small stakes.

Popular Sports

NFL, NBA, MLB, College Sports.

NFL, NBA, College Sports.

Promotions and Bonuses

Risk-free bets, odds boosts.

Parlay insurance, parlay boosts.

Betting Strategy

Focus on individual game analysis.

Requires thorough research for each leg of the parlay.

Psychological Factors

Easier to handle losses.

Can lead to higher stress and frustration due to all-or-nothing nature.

Ideal Bankroll Management

Bet a consistent percentage of bankroll per event (1-2%).

Keep parlay bets small relative to bankroll due to higher risk.


Bet $100 on Giants at +150. Win $150 if they win.

Bet $100 on a three-team parlay: Giants +150, Lakers -200, Yankees +100. Potential payout $750.


- Simplicity

- Lower risk

- Manageable bankroll

- Higher payouts

- High excitement

- Potential for big wins


- Lower payouts

- Less excitement

- Higher risk

- Low probability of success

- Complexity

Tips for Betting Singles and Parlays

1.    Bankroll Management:

     Singles: Bet a consistent percentage of your bankroll (e.g., 1-2% per bet) to manage risk.

     Parlays: Keep parlay bets small relative to your bankroll due to the higher risk involved.

2.    Research and Analysis:

     Singles: Focus on in-depth research of individual games, teams, and players.

     Parlays: Ensure thorough research for each leg of the parlay. One weak link can ruin the entire bet.

3.    Setting Realistic Goals:

     Singles: Aim for steady, incremental gains. Understand that profits will accumulate over time.

     Parlays: Accept that parlays are high-risk and winning frequently is unlikely. Treat parlay wins as bonuses rather than expectations.

4.    Diversification:

     Singles: Diversify your bets across different sports and events to spread risk.

     Parlays: Combine bets from different sports or types of bets (e.g., spreads, totals) to diversify the parlay.

The U.S. Market Perspective

In the U.S., the sports betting market has exploded in recent years due to changes in legislation and the widespread acceptance of online betting. This growth has led to a diverse array of betting options, including both singles and parlays.

Sportsbooks and Promotions:

     Single Bet Promotions: Many U.S. sportsbooks offer promotions such as risk-free bets or odds boosts for single bets. These can be advantageous for bettors looking to minimize risk.

     Parlay Boosts: Some sportsbooks offer parlay insurance or boosts that enhance the potential payout or refund part of the stake if one leg of the parlay loses. These promotions can make parlays more attractive and mitigate some risks.

Betting Trends:

     Singles: Professional bettors (sharps) often prefer single bets due to their lower risk and higher probability of success. They rely on extensive research and analysis to gain an edge.

     Parlays: Recreational bettors (squares) frequently opt for parlays. The allure of turning a small bet into a substantial payout is a significant draw. However, this approach often leads to higher losses over time.

Popular Sports for Betting:

     NFL: Both singles and parlays are popular, with many bettors combining multiple NFL games into parlays for increased payouts.

     NBA: The high frequency of games makes NBA a favorite for single bets, allowing for consistent betting opportunities.

     MLB: Baseball's long season and statistical depth appeal to single bettors. Parlays are also common, particularly with multiple games in a day.

     College Sports: College football and basketball see substantial parlay activity due to the sheer number of games and potential for high payouts.

Case Studies

1.    Single Bet Success:

     Case: A professional bettor focusing on NFL single bets.

     Strategy: Bet 2% of bankroll per game, focusing on point spreads and totals with extensive research.

     Outcome: Steady profits over the season, managing risk and capitalizing on favorable odds.

2.    Parlay Bet Success:

     Case: A recreational bettor placing small parlay bets on NBA games.

     Strategy: Combine 3-4 favorites in a parlay with a modest stake.

     Outcome: Occasional large payouts, but overall higher variance and risk of loss.

3.    Hybrid Approach:

     Case: A balanced bettor using a mix of singles and parlays.

     Strategy: Primary focus on single bets for consistent returns, occasional small parlays for potential big wins.

     Outcome: Balanced risk management with opportunities for both steady income and significant payouts.


Deciding between single bets and parlays ultimately depends on your risk tolerance, betting goals, and overall strategy. Singles offer lower risk and more consistent returns, making them suitable for disciplined bettors focused on long-term success. Parlays, while riskier, provide the excitement and potential for substantial payouts, appealing to recreational bettors and those seeking high rewards.

In the U.S. market, the diversity of sports and betting options allows for flexibility in your approach. Understanding the advantages and disadvantages of each type of bet, along with effective bankroll management and thorough research, will enhance your betting experience and increase your chances of success.